Although VoIP has certainly been in existence for a number of years, anyone who has actually tried deploying a VoIP service knows firsthand that it is not a simple exercise. Issues surrounding voice quality, video quality, security, regulatory requirements, and interconnecting networks present real obstacles for carriers deploying VoIP today. So although VoIP technology exists to enable communication amongst users regardless of location and network ï¿½ we will never realize the true adoption of that technology if we cannot address all of the problems along the way that make service deployment possible.
In other words, there is a big difference between a technology that is deployable and a service that is usable.
We see a world now where carriers are trying to make the leap from simply offering customers a service to offering them an ï¿½Experience.ï¿½
Voice Quality: The voice quality ï¿½barï¿½ is being raised. Not only do you need high voice quality to get in the game, in the future, voice quality that surpasses todayï¿½s circuit toll quality will be required to stay in the game. In other words, high-voice quality might just be the ï¿½killer appï¿½ of VoIP.
Security: The openness of the Web and the advantages of IP are useless if security threats prevent the widespread adoption of VoIP. Whether itï¿½s a hacker bringing down critical SIP servers, invalid users making fraudulent calls, or service debilitating viruses spreading across subscriber populations, VoIP will not be usable as long as these types of threats are not totally contained.
Interconnect: Using new technology to enable the delivery of value-added applications will ultimately help service providers retain their customers by offering them a new rich communications experience. However, offering an enhanced communications experience is not very compelling if it is only available in limited and isolated islands of usage. Therefore, VoIP carriers need to have global reach and seamlessly interconnect with each other to enable a new rich communications experience across networks.
Although there are significant deployment challenges as we have already discussed, there is an approach to overcome them that not only addresses the specific challenges of VoIP deployment, but all problems that exist at the IP border.
Carriers must ask themselves two questions:
1) How do I fix these problems?
2) Where do I fix these problems?
How do I fix these problems?
Most of the deployment challenges that carriers face contain aspects of both the signaling layer and the media itself. For example, high voice quality not only includes managing signaling intelligence for a call, but also processing the media itself to remove echoes, background noise, and other voice call impairments. There are a number of specific examples of how to fight security attacks, increase voice quality, and offer compelling services such as:
ï¿½ Encrypting the signaling/encrypting the voice.
ï¿½ Prioritizing trusted users while fending off DOS attacks.
ï¿½ Removing echo (acoustic and hybrid).
ï¿½ Restoring lost packets.
ï¿½ Maximizing usage of wideband codecs.
ï¿½ Correcting noise level discrepancies.
ï¿½ Hiding topology of core infrastructure systems.
Where do I fix these problems?
The obvious choice is to address VoIP deployment issues at the IP border. Carriers can start looking at their IP border as a strategic point in the network to measure voice quality and implement corrective actions. By implementing proper security policies at their border, carriers can keep threats outside of their network. At the end of the day, service providers and carriers want to offer differentiated application services to their customers. As applications become more available, as networks start to converge the most logical place to deliver applications, as well as enforce and manage policies, is clearly at the IP border.
For example, if a carrierï¿½s network is under a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, the situation must be addressed as soon as possible and as far away as possible from core, mission-critical infrastructure. In the case of monitoring and taking action on voice quality ï¿½ carriers need the ability to determine and take action at the very first point in the network so that they can actually see the true condition of a call at the first possible point of visibility.
Carriers need to look to the IP border to address potential issues with scalability as well. Understanding that there are subscribers across different networks, with different devices all running different applications, itï¿½s easy to see how enforcing policies in an efficient manner can pose a significant challenge. Addressing each customer and their policy at the point where they enter the network provides efficient and scalable service delivery.
There are still many challenges that must be overcome in order to move from a deployable service to usable service. Increasingly however carriers are being given the right tools and technology and are learning the best practices to increase quality while mitigating security threats. Ultimately, this will enable carriers to increase value and retain customers by offering a more rich communications experience. IT
Greg Galitzine is Group Editorial Director for TMCï¿½s IP Communications group of publications, including Internet Telephony, IMS, and SIP magazines.